The Hindu (October 19, 2015) – The blockade aimed at Nepal is no longer a bilateral matter between India and Nepal as it has the potential to hurt the plans for shared prosperity among the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) member countries. Discussing the multilateral dimension of the blockade between Nepal and India, Tofail Ahmed, Minister of Commerce, Bangladesh, told The Hindu that the blockade which has been hurting Nepal’s economy, should end at the earliest.

Speaking from Bangladesh, Mr. Ahmed noted that Bangladesh has been tracking the development but has so far avoided commenting. But, making an exception, he told The Hindu that such blockades are not in the spirit of regional cooperation of South Asia: “In June this year, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal agreed to create the framework for BBIN transport network. BBIN is an unprecedented step that we took aiming at shared prosperity in South Asia. BBIN was meant to facilitate movement of commercial vehicles across the borders of Bhutan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Such blockades hit at agreements like the BBIN,” Mr. Ahmed told The Hindu.

Mr. Ahmed is one of the leading liberal politicians of Bangladesh and was groomed by founder of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His comments are particularly relevant since he has been promoting free trade in SAARC region for several years.

Speaking to The Hindu earlier, Kanak Mani Dixit, editor of Himal magazine had pointed out that more awareness could have been created about such blockades if the South Asian media had studied a 2013 energy crisis in Bhutan that resulted from a subsidy-related dispute between India and Bhutan, more intensely. “We need to keep track of cross-border commercial crises in future to enable ourselves deal with such blockades more effectively,” Mr. Dixit said.

Mr. Ahmed, however said he is not in favour of digging any dispute between Nepal and India but feels that such blockades set a negative precedent in this age of globalisation and free trade agreements. “We do not have massive bilateral trade with Nepal. But Bangladeshi truck owners, ports and companies might also get affected negatively if the blockade continues against Nepal. We hope the blockade is temporary and a solution will be found soon,” he said explaining that his government seeks an end to such obstructions and blockades in South Asian region so that common people are spared hardships.